The teachings of the Prophet of Islam and his exemplary way of living show that he not only projected the ‘concept of peace’, but that he was also able to develop a complete methodology of ‘Peaceful Activism’. The revolution he brought about was a practical one based on the ‘Ideology of Peace’. In view of the contribution made to human history by the Prophet of Islam, he can be most appropriately called the ‘Prophet of Peace’. In the Qur’an the Prophet of Islam is called the Prophet of Mercy (Qur’an;21:107). The Prophet of Peace is only another name for the Prophet of Mercy. Both express the same reality in different words. But this aspect of the Prophet (pbuh) was overshadowed by the political history of Islam. Now, if there is to be a rediscovery of the Prophet of Islam as he actually was, this veil of politics needs to be removed.
He is the only man in history, who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels. The question arises as to what the secret was of this great success achieved by the Prophet. The secret lies in one word PEACE. It would not be overstating the case to say that the Prophet of Islam was the greatest pacifist in history. He exploited peace as an unconquerable force. In controversial matters, a peaceful course of action is far more effective than having recourse to violence, the Qur’an is appreciative of reconciliation as the best(4:128). The Prophet of Islam once said, “God grants to peace, what he does not grant to violence.” (Sahih Muslim).
A study of the life of the Prophet of Islam tells us that the Prophet discovered peace both as a complete ideology and as a methodology, which were productive of the most effective strategy in all matters.
It is a historical fact that the changes he brought about ushered in all kinds of individual, social and political improvements, the combination of which adds up to revolution. As we find in a tradition, exactly at the time when the defensive battle at Badar was taking place, God’s angel came to him and said: “God has sent you a message of peace.” On hearing this, the Prophet of Islam said: “God is peace, peace is from Him and peace returns to Him.” (Al-Bidayah wan Nihayah, vol. 3, page 267). According to this tradition, we can rightly say that on the occasion of the Battle of Badr, the leader of Islam was making his next peace plan. The mission of the Prophet of Islam was not of a political nature. More correctly, it was a spiritual mission. The Qur’an calls it as to:“instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom and sanctify them” (2:129). That is, making man a perfect human being. The same reality has been expressed elsewhere in the Qur’an as the making of a complex-free soul. Such an aim can be achieved only through counseling and persuasion. It is an aim which demands re-engineering of the mind. This can be done only by awakening man’s ability to think. The means of achieving it is not a political revolution, but rather an intellectual revolution. That is why all the teachings of the Prophet are entirely based on the concept of peace. The Qur’an, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, has more than 6000 verses. There are hardly 40 verses in it, which are about qital or war that is, less than one percent, whereas ninety nine percent of the verses are such as are designed to awaken man’s intellectual faculties. We can say, moreover, that the Qur’an is a book on the ‘art of thinking.’ It is in no way a treatise on the art of fighting.
The study of human psychology shows that both peace and violence are expressions of internal feelings. If man’s mind is filled with hatred, it will find expression in a violent form of action. But if his mind is filled with love, it will always find expression in a peaceful form of action. Embarking upon a course of peaceful activism is not a simple matter, but rather entails making sacrifices. That is, man refrains from hating his opponents, despite having good cause for hatred; and he contrives to direct his mind away from such activities as would engender hatred. For the first time in human history, the Prophet of Islam provided a perfect and complete model of ‘peaceful activism’. This was possible only because he paid the price of unilateral moderation and adjustment. All kinds of injustice were done to him by his opponents, but he was able to rise above them. By ignoring them, he was able to plan the course of his actions along positive lines. The Prophet of Islam was a peace-loving person in the complete sense of the word. No event, however unpleasant, could disturb his peace of mind. With this sublime mentality, he had found something of such supreme value that all other things were of no consequence in comparison. He engaged in positive thinking in the perfect sense. His mind was a workshop which could convert even negative trains of thought into positive ones. He had a great capacity for converting experiences of violence into experiences of peace. On the contrary, some people (inclined to violence & terrorism due to ignorance) have manifested their propensity for converting positive experience into all that is negative.
The policy of Prophet (peace be upon him) was always to counter enemy war initiatives with peaceful measures. For this peaceful strategy to be effective, a trained team of peace-loving people was required. The companions of the Prophet proved to be competent for this task and the strategy of countering violence with peace proved so successful that, within a short period of 20 years, the whole of Arabia had entered the fold of Islam. This peaceful strategy owed its success largely to the Prophet having been able to establish peace treaties with all the tribes of Arabia. Thus it was made binding upon all the tribes to follow the peaceful method of their own accord. This was a new method — in effect, treaty diplomacy. It was as a result of these strategies that a country populated by such militant people could be revolutionized within such a short period of time. The miracle was that it was a (almost) bloodless revolution.[total number of opponents killed was around 250??]
Patience, as a virtue, was given the utmost importance in the teachings of the Prophet of Islam. In the Qur’an, there are about 110 verses which contain the word sabr (patience). The Qur’an, in fact, goes to the extent of saying that success depends upon patience alone. The Qur’an states, “O people, be patient and steadfast, so that you may prosper”(Qur’an;3:200). At another place, the Qur’an states that even the leadership of nations is given to those who persevere with patience (Qur’an;32:24). It is this truth which is thus expressed in the text of a long Hadith: “Learn that success goes with patience.” (Musnad Ahmad, vol. I, p. 307) That is to say that success is linked with patience. No patience, no success. The tree of success always grows on the land of patience. History tells us that the majority of the world’s pacifists, or peaceful activists, have failed to achieve their aims the commonest reason being that while they recognized the value of peace, they ignored the value of patience. Without exercising patience, it is impossible to launch a peace movement with any hope of success.
Generally, what happens is that first the leaders of revolution hold someone or some group to be their enemy, and then launch a movement against that enemy. For instance, Nelson Mandela’s course of action in South Africa was first to spread hatred for the white settlers there, and then declare that he was going to launch a peaceful movement to oust them from political power. The atmosphere of hostility thus created was the reason for Nelson Mandela’s movement taking so long to achieve the desired result. According to the ‘Principle of Peace Activism’, when directed against some group, it is vital that there be no negative feelings against its members. It is essential to have a positive mind set when dealing with them. This must be the sole basis for launching any action, based on ‘Peaceful Activism’. For if we do not have positive feelings for the other party, we can never succeed in our peaceful mission. Practically, what happens is that one group launches a peaceful movement against another group, on the basis of the peaceful method, yet harbors feelings of injustice, supposed or otherwise, against their opponents. This feeling engenders hatred for the other party. This hatred gradually takes the form of violence, and if the desired success is not achieved through violence, this storm of hatred, boiling within their hearts, leads them to engage in all kinds of destructive activities. Ultimately, to wipe out the enemy, they may even take such extreme measures as suicide bombing.
Gradually, the mission of the Prophet of Islam started spreading and the number of his followers increased. Then the time came when 73 people came from Medina to meet him and confide in him that they had joined his mission. They said to him that he should no longer tolerate the oppression of the Makkans. And that they should be allowed to engage in jihad against the Makkans. The Prophet of Islam had this to say to them: “Go back to your city, for I have not been commanded to wage war.” This course of action on the part of the Prophet shows that he always behaved with a view to what the consequences would be. He believed that our initiatives should always be aimed at yielding positive results the initiative which proves counterproductive is no initiative at all. He supported result-oriented action.
The life of the Prophet of Islam shows that in his scheme of things there war no room for what is now called ‘suicide bombing’. What is suicide bombing? In reality, it signals the final stage of frustration. That is, when the extremist feels that his opponents are invincible, he goes to the extent of killing himself, in the hopes that that will at least inflict some harm upon the enemy. He seeks justification for taking this step by saying that he had opted for that path so that he might receive martyrdom. Resorting to suicide bombing to deal with the enemy is an indication that although the option of peaceful action is open to one, intense feelings of hatred and revenge act as a blinder; and in this veil of darkness, the bomber ultimately kills himself. In any such situation where a man opts for suicide bombing, the peaceful method is certainly open to him, but he fails to see this. The truth is that to make a reasoned choice of the peaceful method, it is vital that man’s mind should be free of feelings of hatred and revenge: one should be able to analyze events dispassionately. In the words of the Prophet of Islam, he should be able to see things as they are. Peaceful action is positive act on, and its importance can be understood only by a positive mind which plans its course of action in consonance with peaceful objectives.
Peaceful activism is ostensibly an external action, but it is the result, in the full sense, of an internal awareness. It is peaceful minds alone that can appreciate the benefits of peaceful activism and can properly bring it into play. The Prophet of Islam realized this truth. That is why, first and foremost, he worked towards building peace-loving minds. Only after such a mentality had been developed were he and his followers were able to launch their movements, abiding by the principle of peaceful activism. The same reality has been expressed in religious terms. When man’s heart is rectified, then all his actions are rectified.
The Qur’an calls this action of mind-building ‘purification’ (Tazkia). It states that one important task of the Prophet was to work for the purification (Tazkia) of the people(Qur’an;2:129), or in other words, purification of the soul. What was the method of this purification? We learn this from a tradition of the Prophet of Islam. According to one tradition, the Prophet said that when a believer committed some sin his heart came to have a black spot, but that when he repented and sought forgiveness from God, his heart was purified of it. But if he did not refrain from committing sins, then the spots went on increasing, until they enveloped the whole heart. (Musnad Ahmad, vol. 2, p, 297). In this Hadith, the Prophet of Islam tells us of a very important reality which is borne out by the study of psychology: this study tells us that when some thought comes to the human mind, it becomes a part and parcel of the memory’s storehouse, and is never expunged from it. The study further shows that the human mind has two big departments, one the conscious mind, the other he unconscious mind. When any thought enters the human mind, it first goes to the conscious mind, and then gradually it shifts to the unconscious mind. This shifting process takes place mostly at night during sleep. In this way, although something active in the memory today apparently becomes forgotten, having moved to the back of the mind, in reality, it is not lost, but becomes an integral part of the human personality. The truth is that the human personality is directly dependent upon human thinking. It is one’s thoughts that make the personality. If we study the above saying of the Prophet Islam, in the light of modern psychological research; we find that it conveys the actual secret of peaceful thinking and peaceful activism. Only that person can be a peaceful activist, in the real sense, who follows this saying of the Prophet to the letter and spirit. In the jargon of today, this process may be described as ‘de-conditioning’.
All human beings and all human groups live in society. Within its framework, one can be faced with all kinds of unpleasant events, which may produce negative feelings towards others. In this way, everyone’s mind is likely to entertain thoughts and feelings of a negative nature. If man at the outset fails to convert such thoughts and feelings into positive ones, they will become entrenched in his unconscious mind as negative ideas. If this process continues unhampered, his unconscious mind or memory will ultimately be filled with negativity. Consequently, his entire personality will be vitiated. It is the possessors of such negative personalities who become involved in war and violence against others. Violence, in fact, is simply an external manifestation of this negative personality. When any negative thought enters one’s mind, one should immediately convert it into a positive feeling. One who acts promptly to set in motion this process of mental conversion will build up a veritable storehouse of positive ideas in the unconscious mind. The benefit accruing to him will be the freeing of his personality of all kinds of negative feelings. Such a person will be the possessor of a positive personality, in the fullest sense. Such are the people who live positively, who are truly capable of launching a movement in accordance with the principle of ‘Peaceful Activism’. The Prophet of Islam understood this psychological reality, and through purification, or in other words, by setting in motion the process of de-conditioning in each individual, formed a team of followers numbering more than 100,000, who were staunchly committed to the principle of peaceful activism. Apart from some conflicts due to misunderstanding and conspiracies by the enemies of Islam, they were ultimately able to achieve peace, by dominating the negativities through positive way of thinking, to usher in a far-reaching and beneficent revolution.
[Excerpts form the Article by Maulan Waheed-uddin Khan, courtesy the Monthly ‘Tazkeer’, Lahore English Edition, December 2008.]
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